Science explains why playing awesome finale songs is good for your brain

Science explains why playing awesome finale songs is good for your brain

Ten years later, the fun, energetic tune that plays while I design my video game avatar still makes me want to jump a little in my seat — it’s upbeat, the perfect vibe for XSEED’s 2023 opening The Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life.

In fact, the longer I play, the more I’m surprised at how much of the soundtrack I remember. It was the theme of the Blue Bar evening, now called “Nighttime” – nice and familiar. Romana’s residence? Still majestic, the epitome of finesse. And when did I buy my first chicken? Cue the second round of the character creation song. I still wanted to dance.

Had I longed for those songs over the years? Maybe a little, much to my surprise. I liked them, but not the original, 2004 games Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life and 2005 Another wonderful life for the GameCube. Nostalgia hit me so hard that I actually looked up the full soundtracks on YouTube. I let them play in the background as I write this article, reminiscing. I had loved Celia as a child. I had my mom play her file. I had played on that old square TV in the family room after I finished my homework.

Had I longed for those songs over the years? Maybe a little, much to my surprise.

Harvest Moon

I hadn’t thought about some of those things in years. If you asked me to sing a song from Harvest MoonI wouldn’t have been able to do that—and yet, when I started streaming those soundtracks, I found myself doing just that: humming, as if I’d last played it just days before.

Driven by the music, I remembered more than just the songs A wonderful life but also a lot from the 1999 classic Harvest Moon 64, my first agricultural card – including “Village”, which plays all year round, and “Summer”, which only plays during that season. I didn’t realize that those tunes were buried somewhere in my brain from the beginning. They just needed a little nudge to return to conscious memory.

As it turns out, keeping music memories alive is incredibly common, as many studies have shown. However, most of the existing research does not focus on game soundtracks, but on sets. A 2022 review found that there are multiple benefits to music-induced nostalgia. Synthesizing more than 30 years of existing research, the authors found that nostalgia evoked by music “acts as a buffer against adversity” such as sadness and can also promote optimism (which are, incidentally, some of the benefits of resilience, a life skills that can be cultivated through games). This is because nostalgic music has been shown to lift the listener’s mood.

This 2022 review also notes that music has the potential to help dementia patients. Some studies suggest that musical memories may be relatively intact in people with some types of dementia. This is great, as the madness is on the rise. Many other studies have also focused on the aspect of memory. A 2021 pilot study done at the University of Toronto, which looked at 14 people with Alzheimer’s disease who were in early cognitive decline, found that listening to old favorites improved cognitive functioning. Their preliminary results suggest that songs associated with autobiographical memories have particular power for these patients, as evidenced by MRI data.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time there is nostalgic music.


But as someone in their 30s with no apparent memory problems, none of those studies applied to my surprises. Harvest Moon hum. This is where something called the musical reminiscence bump comes in. Coined in the 1980s by a group of psychologists and psychiatrists, the lump was defined as “disproportionate recall of memories” between the ages of 10 and 30 in a 2020 study; These researchers found a connection between those memories and the music of the time period in which those memories occurred.

Furthermore, they found that this musical connection was strongest between the ages of ten and 15, peaking at age 14. There are additional high scores during childhood and adolescence, with the 15- and 20-year-olds both ranking second highest, and the five- and 10-year-olds. ranking third.

Practically speaking, this means that the songs we listen to as teenagers “become deeply embedded in our memory banks and have incredible staying power”, which is exactly why I was reminded of those old Harvest Moon songs once from music. I played it for the first time around the age of nine. I talked about it with my friends. I even created my own Flower Bud Village newspaper one day during indoor break. I well remember the blue-gray construction paper I used the first time I thought of myself as a journalist.

This checks many of the memory collision boxes: age, music, nostalgia, and autobiographical memories.

It is a very real and powerful nostalgia, noted Dr. Andra Ivănescu, a senior lecturer in game studies at Brunel University London and part of the Ludomusicology Research Group. She noted the power of games to provide players with connections. Despite stereotypes of loners in basements, “gamers are always social,” she says. “Even when you play it yourself, you’re still part of the community that plays those games.”

That sense of community grows from music, whether it’s a major franchise Wild spirit remixing the original Zelda main theme at the night riding track or at a video game concert that brings players together IRL.

That’s why you’ll remember the boss music from your favorite RPG and your best friend used to play it GTA: Vice City and loved the soundtrack.

Rockstar games

“Even if it’s no longer 8-bit, even if it’s completely different instruments, even if it’s completely modified in a million different ways, you’ll understand that [nostalgic] topic”, says Ivănescu. “It will strike differently from the graphics and gameplay.”

That’s why you’ll remember the boss music from your favorite RPG and your best friend used to play it GTA: Vice City and loved the soundtrack. When we are nostalgic for these songs, we are also nostalgic for our past.

Some work has been done on video game nostalgia, including a 2023 psychological study suggesting that gaming-produced nostalgia could potentially benefit players’ psychological well-being by enhancing their experiences of “pleasure and appreciation,” but more research is needed to better integrate gameplay and Nostalgia Research. Unfortunately, their work does not specifically address music.

Other research on game music includes a 2023 anthology containing a chapter on the use of classical music in games, and a 2022 anthology on nostalgia and game music. Ivănescu himself wrote a 2019 book focusing on the use of folk music in games, such as Annette Hanshaw, a jazz singer voted best folk singer in 1934, whose music appeared in BioShock 2.

Annette Hanshaw, a jazz singer voted best folk singer in 1934, had music featured in BioShock 2.

2K games

All of this is to say, the benefits offered by other types of nostalgic music may very well extend to game soundtracks, but that can’t be said with complete certainty until it’s explored further. Gaming, as a hobby, has never been all good or all bad, and as science begins to take it more seriously, gaming research will only get better.

Meanwhile, where does this leave the players? Doing exactly what we do best: playing games, be it new worlds or remakes, making memories and enjoying a hobby that can also benefit our brains musically. As for me personally, I would like to see a remake of it HM64 (if you’re reading this, XSEED) for updated gameplay, nostalgia factor, and a remix of a great soundtrack. Can’t wait to buzz along.

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